Archives for

Renegade Notes

Top 10 moments of the 2017 Renegade Season

Every season is full of exciting moments but here is a list of Coach Rob’s top 10 moments of the 2017 Renegade season.  Before we get into this list, keep in mind, this is just one point of view.  There are so many great things that happen throughout the year.  I’m sure each and every Renegade has different moments they want to remember.  One key thing here is we try to focus on memorable events, overcoming adversity, funny moments and positive experiences.  Even though there were a few questionable umpire moments this year, we choose not to focus on them and instead focus on what we can control.  As we count down toward the final days of 2017 and enter 2018, we will add the top moments until we reach number one.  Check Facebook or check back on this page every few days for updates!

For past top 10 moments articles see these posts

#10 Soto makes his first ever stop on defense

Ben Coiner escorts Luis Soto into the field against New Jersey

Ben Coiner (Spotter) escorts Luis Soto out into the field against the New Jersey Lightning in Woburn where Soto would make his first ever defensive stop

We always celebrate firsts on the Renegades.  For most players, earning their first defensive stop is harder than scoring their first run.  Luis Soto has been playing with the Renegades since 2015.  At this point in his career he had played in 16 games.  Soto had a tough year in 2016 as he was plagued with doubt and a lack of confidence in his game.  That was erased late in that season but 2017 brought other physical challenges for him.  The entire year he was plagued with an issue that caused him to be either dizzy or light headed whenever he dropped his chin.  This made practicing and playing very hard for him.  Despite this challenge, he really improved his game and would have his best year ever as a Renegade.  So many practices, we would see him making plays on defense in our deep rover position.  He even came close to making some plays earlier in the year in Chicago.  Our number 10 moment would come against the New Jersey Lightning.  With two out in the top of the 6th inning and a 15-2 lead, Dan Johnson of the Lightning hit a ball into left center field.  For the Lightning, this looked to be their 3rd run of the game and a back-to-back scoring opportunity for the first time all day.  As Johnson sprinted to the base, Soto backed up Joe Quintanilla and laid out.  He picked up the ball for the out and ended the contest.  His first ever put out ended the game.  Seeing him get this out after all of the emotional and physical battles he had over the past two seasons was a great coaching joy.

#9 Devenish is not just a DH

Second year player, Shawn Devenish saw some action in the field in his rookie campaign of 2016.  Sadly, most of it consisted of him turning his back to home plate running after deep drives into left field during the World Series. In beep baseball, this often spells out “run” for the offense.

A shot of Devenish from the outfield during his game against the NJ Lightning

A picture of Shawn playing defense against the NJ Lightning a few innings before he made his first stop on defense

Shawn plays with tenacity and he works hard at his craft.  He is not afraid to throw his body to the ground and he has shown some skills on defense.  He played some innings this year in the field at the corners.  As with our number 10 memorable moment of 2017, this is about celebrating Shawn’s first defensive out. Heck, this could have been the first time since 2002 we had two players make their first defensive stop on the same day.

Shawn saw his action in the last game of the Beast of the East as he was playing third base against the Long Island Bombers.  It was the top of the second inning and Boston was ahead 3-2 with two outs.  Long Island brought their lead off hitter to the plate in Joe Dejesus.  Our defense went into an over shift for this hitter, a shift we actually call the “Dejesus shift”.  Devenish found himself (the third baseman) playing in right field.  The scouting report paid off and Dejesus laced a ball down the first base line past the diving stop of Christian Thaxton.  Devenish laid out in a modified superman just as he has been taught.  The ball hit him near his ankles but since he was in a slight cup shape, the ball rolled right up his body and into his hands.  This was no small feat as Dejesus is one of the fastest players on the East coast.  Shawn’s sure hands picked the ball clean and Joe was out as the Renegades ended the threat.  Boston fed off this play and the momentum it provided helped carry over to the offense as the Renegades plated 9 runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning to build a 10 run lead.  It was great to see Shawn make a big play in a big moment.  It was better to see him make the play in a shift with perfect mechanics.  As we always say to players…you won’t forget your first.

Joe Yee is pictured here after the game with ice on his broken finger

#8 Yee – haw redeems himself against Austin

In Bolingbrook, the Renegades were playing for 5th place against the Austin Blackhawks.  After coming off a championship run in 2016, much of the league was surprised to hear the team was playing this poorly.  However, many of them did not know that short of coach Weissman, all of the Renegade volunteer staff was green.  We had our number two pitcher and our number 4 and 6 callers on the field.  Heck, Joe Bourque was calling his first set of games, ever.  In addition to this, Boston had three starters not make the trip as Joe McCormick, Guy Zuccarello and Rob Dias were unavailable.  Knowing this, it was great for the team to be competing at this level.

We faced the Austin Blackhawks who were also 1-2 on the weekend.  In the first inning of this game Boston jumped ahead 2-0 when Joe yee laced a hard grounder up the middle that looked like a sure third run of the inning, but he ran by third base and missed it to end the rally. Yee was upset as he put on the pink blind fold. After 4 innings, Boston clung to a 5-4 lead and that missed base was haunting the Renegades like a missed extra point often haunts a football team.

Austin would tie the game up 7-7 in the 5th inning.  Joe Yee would find himself leading off the 6th with one thing on his mind.  That thing had nothing to do with hitting and had everything to do with running.  Despite striking out on 9 pitches in his previous two at-bats, he was focused.  On the first pitch from pitcher, Jamie Dickerson, he hit a grounder up the middle and raced toward third again.  This ball was not hit as well as the one in the first inning and he needed speed to score.  It was going to be a bang bang play and Yee plowed straight into the bag scoring the go-ahead run to pull the team ahead 8-7.  The Renegade bench erupted as we knew we had all star, Christian Thaxton coming up to help cushion the lead.  The problem was Weissman knew the way Yee landed was not a good sign.  He was slow in getting up and the medic was called to look at him.  As the inning progressed, Yee was observed and it was determined he had injured a finger on his hand.  Joe was determined and with the aid of tape, took the field for the bottom of the 6th inning at 3rd base.

Boston would go on to win this game 9-7 in a dog fight against one of the best teams in the country.  The mental toughness of Joe Yee would be a big reason this happened.  We would later find upon our return to Boston that he had a fracture in his hand.  This fracture would slow him down for much of the next month as he tried to heal and get ready for the World series.  Scoring that go ahead run after missing a base showed mental toughness.  Going into the field with a broken finger showed his heart and passion and helped propel the team to victory.

#7 Justen makes the World Series all star team

Justen gets some work at practice on his defense (Photo by Ginger DeShaney)

The Boston Renegades have climbed the ranks from the doormat of the league in 2002 to one of the top teams in the league over the past three years.  No other team has done this with 100% home grown talent.  Clearly, we have gotten some great players and athletes which helps.  What people don’t see is the hardwork that our players and coaches put in from February till July every year. Justen is hands down one of the best defenders in team history.  He owns our team record for most stops in a season (77) and even made the league all- star team in 2011.  After losing the title game in 2016, Justen was convinced he could do better.  At one point in the season, he made an effort to thank Bryan Grillo for the drills that were making him better moving to his right and left.  Getting better is what the Renegades are about, always looking to improve in the finer details of the sport.

All of that paid off, sort of.  What makes this memorable was all of the hard work that went into it…both with Justen and the league.  The league has very basic scoring habits. These habits initially robbed Justen of his all star status.  For game one of the World Series against Seattle, Justen was the Designated hitter and never saw time in the field.  When it came time to name the top defenders, Justen’s name was not mentioned because the league initially counted that as a defensive game played.  I jumped into action and after about a month of talks and discussions, the league recognized Justen with an award, placing him 6th in the league with 4.17 stops per game.  To date, the league has not made any announcement about this or even added Justen’s name as an all star on the web site.  We are grateful they un-officialy added him to the team, but they need to fix this officially as well.  This moment was memorable for so many reasons and we credit the hard work of the coaching staff and the dedication and willingness for Justen to work harder even though he is at the top of the league in his craft.

to read more on this achievement, see our post from the fall here:

#6 Indy knocks out Yee

Boston would face off against the Indy Thunder in the losers bracket on Friday of the World Series as both teams who made the title game in 2016 had been knocked into the loser’s bracket. Boston was beat by colorado and Indy had been upset by San Antonio.  The loser of this game would be eliminated, so it was a huge game for both teams whom had title hopes.  In the 3rd inning of this contest, Joe Yee was playing third base as the Renegades had just let up 4 runs and Indy led 9-3.  With 4 in and 2 outs, Eric Rodriguez tagged a fly ball to third base that hit Joe Yee on the side of the head on the fly. Yee wobbled but the run scored.  After a short break, he stayed in the game. Gerald Dycus then scored again on a ball hit inside 100 feet  six runs were in for Indy.  Zach Buhler then hit a bomb and things looked bad for Boston as the Indy Thunder were on a roll.

Corey White stepped up next and put the ball in play on the ground.  This time Joe yee laid out and had the ball lined up.  Sadly, the ball hit him square in the face and the run scored. Bryan Grillo quickly called for help as blood was streaming from Yee’s face. He was hit twice in the head within just 4 batters.  This time, he was taken out on a golf cart to be tended to.  By the time the inning ended, Boston had let up 12 runs.  It was 19-5.

Joe was in the trainers room and when he came out he had ice on his head and gauze shoved up his nostrils.  He had passed concussion protocol.  Though he could not breathe, he badly wanted back in the game.  His cries were ignored by the coach and his Series was claimed “over”.  We could probably count on one hand the amount of times a Renegade player has been hit in the head during a game and poor Joe had it happen twice within 5 minutes.

On Saturday night at the banquet, things got scary.  Joe became suddenly very quiet and as we were boarding our vans, his speech became slurred and he could not move.  We rushed him to the hospital and he was admitted for the night to be watched.  Coach Peg Bailey (registered nurse)  and Mike Marciello (MD) stayed with him to expedite his treatment and make sure he was ok.  He was released the next morning, right before we left the hotels for the airport.  To this day, the doctors don’t truly know why this happened.  For the 3rd time in the team’s 17 year history a player was taken to the hospital during the World Series.  Staying up all night worrying about his health and what to do if he missed the flight was a challenge and something no coach of a baseball team for the blind would ever forget.

#5 Thaxton sets league record for highest Batting Average at a World Series

Weissman, Thaxton and Cochran pose with Christian’s MVP award

Christian played junior college baseball and knows more about a baseball swing than anyone on the Renegade coaching staff.  That said, after the 2016 season, we spoke about one small thing to make him a better hitter for 2017.  That small thing was to trust the pitcher and stop tinkering with his mechanics in game.  The result of this was the best World Series batting Average of any player in league history.

It did not come this easy.  Thaxton got off to a slow start this year as he was not abailable for our trip to New Jersey and in Chicago, he struggled a bit against number two pitcher, Jamie Dickerson.    One funny thing was in Chicago, Eric Rodriguez of Indy batted a perfect 1.000 for the tournament going 21-21.  The entire league marveled at this feat.

Things started to gel for him in Woburn in July at the Home tournament when Cochran and he started to connect.  In fact, Thaxton got red hot.  Starting in our home tournament he was perfect and was 10-10 against the Titans, Lightning and Long Island Bombers.  That hot streak carried over to Wellington, Florida.  He scored 8 more times on the first two days of the series against Seattle, The Titans and Long Island before he struck out.  If you tack on the two runs he scored in his last two at bats vs Austin in Chicago it all added up to  20 straight plate appearances with a run scored, one shy of Rodriguez’s feat in June.

Thaxton was not done.  As the competition heated up he would put another streak together of scoring 11 straight times against Long Island, Austin and Colorado.  That included a tying his own team record of a  6 run game vs the Austin Blackhawks, one of the better defensive teams in the league.  Thaxton would then finish 7-8 vs the Indy thunder and Indy edge.  That made him 27-29 at the World Series which earned him the top hitter award award at the banquet.  I was so wrapped up in trying to determine if he set a league record, that the moment escaped me that he became the 2nd Renegade to ever earn a league MVP award. Guy Zuccarello earned this in defense in Iowa in 2012. Through my own research, I found that John Parker held the league record since 1996.  What a fun ride this was which also earned Christian an interview on a National radio show on NPR called “Its only a game”.

Read more about how he broke the record here

Hear Christian on NPR Radio tell is story

#4 Renegades throw out the first pitch at Fenway


In the winter during a bowlathon, it was suggested to us by Woburn Lion, Bryan Murphy that we should talk to David D’Arcangelo,Rob Dias’ boss at the Massachusetts Office on Disability, who was there supporting the event.  Over a short period of time, the Red Sox reached out to us and invited the team to throw out the first pitch during disability awareness day at Fenway Park.  We needed a fair way to determine who would throw out the first pitch.  The funny thing is throwing is not part of beep baseball and many of our players don’t have the most accurate arms.

After putting names into a hat, James “Thanh” Huynh was selected to throw.  There were two requirements.  The person had to want to do this and the person had to be able to prove they could throw it with some level of accuracy.   After James proved he could throw a strike (video here), he told the team he changed his mind and did not want to attend the event, so he could be with his sick fiance who was in the hospital.  Melissa Hoyt would become the “chosen one”.

Melissa Hoyt holds the ball she threw out for the first pitch at FenwayShe passed her throwing test and was ready for Fenway (video here).  It’s a very cool opportunity to be on the field at Fenway.  We had a great turn out and it was amazing to see everyone’s faces as they stood on the field before the game.  Everyone was having a blast taking in the sights, the feel, the crowd energy and the opportunity.  For me, it was such an awesome way to thank the volunteers for their hard work over the years.  Jamie Dickerson even caught our experience in a live video feed from our facebook page which was memorable and kicked off our facebook live events.

Melissa and I had a talk before the pitch.  We spoke about the fact it was better for her to take something off the throw then throw it hard.  She was more accurate this way.  Throwing is not part of beep baseball.  We drew from a hat and Bryan Grillo and Peg Bailey were chosen to assist her with the throw.  All of these people had a chance to meet Brock Holt on the field.  Brock was pretty amazing and even called Melissa by her name when he gave her the ball for a keeps sake.

It was such an honor for me to give back to the volunteers.  It was also so awesome for us to give Melissa a chance to throw the pitch.  She may not have the beepball stats but she gives it her all and she works hard.  She is an inspiration for people and her story eventually caught fire and ended up in a journal called Mitoaction which can be read here:.  Seeing this player get some love and attention from the media and throwing out the pitch may have made one of her most memorable moments of her 11 year career.  I was so happy to have helped make that happen for her.

#3 Cooperstown here we come

Being a coach of a baseball team for the blind requires a passion for helping others and a passion for baseball.  I have both of these passions.  Working with Christian has been amazing.  He has made everyone on our team better.  When we figured out he had broken the record for highest batting average in league history (modern rules), I wanted to get this some attention.  In moment #5 of this countdown, we quickly discussed his interview on NPR.  That was amazing.  I had the fortune of going to the studio with him.

Certificate from the National Baseball Hall of fame with the lifetime passes for Christian and Coach Rob

I had worked with the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014 to get some Memorabilia from our league into Cooperstown.  They ended up taking the shirt of Austin Blackhawk, Brandon Cheeser along with his fielding gloves and the ball that made the final out of the World Series.  I was so excited to see our league get some recognition at this time.  I felt it was an awesome way to tell the story of our sport by showing the World Champion Austin Blackhawks.

After Thaxton broke the record, I reached out to the Hall of Fame again and asked them if they may be interested in this story.  They jumped at the opportunity and asked me to start filling out some paperwork (see our story here for more details on this wonderful accomplishment).  As a baseball fan, it was so cool to offer and have our idea accepted by the baseball hall of fame.  They took the bat he used to get this streak and all of our score cards along with a photo of him using the bat in Florida.  I had the joy and honor of delivering the bat and paperwork to Cooperstown where it will reside forever.  Yes, Christian Thaxton has memorabilia in the baseball hall of fame!  I just love that he is in there in Renegade colors representing our team.  I have heard from countless other Renegades about how cool it is to have our scoresheets there as each and every player is listed on those sheets. It makes some of our players feel like they have a small piece of Cooperstown as well.

This fall, I had the joy of giving Christian is hall of fame certificate and a lifetime pass to the hall.  I truly hope we will be able to see his bat on display in the future!

#2 The Renegades became media darlings

At the start of the season, we set a goal to get the media to give us some attention especially with the home tournament we had scheduled in june.  We felt this was a great year to get some media and we played with some different ways of pitching stories.  A small group of three of us got together to work on this plan.

We always have four goals with anything we do.  Recruit players, recruit volunteers,raise aweness and raise money to help us with travel expenses and equipment.  We planned to pitch all of this to the media.

The season started and a few things fell into our lap early.  Coach, Ben Coiner had an article written about his role on the team…with a goal of helping us recruit volunteers for our home game.  Then we got some press for Melissa Hoyt for her journey in battling mitochondrial disease.  Those articles were just the beginning

Before our home tournament, we reached out to the Watertown tab.  Scott Souza of the tab came out and wrote an awesome article about our team.  What was even better was this article was picked up by so many local papers in the wicked local circuit.  We saw variations of the article in Bedford, Maynard, Stow, Westfod and Waltham…the word was getting out!

Jonathan Choe of NBC Boston preps us for going Live on Tv

Approaching the home tournament, we knew the Boston Globe would be joining and had interest in doing a piece on the team. This was very exciting to have such a presence at our game.  This was also just the beginning

The morning of our game one of our volunteers started calling the media desks.  The result of his work was probably the best media attention the sport of beep baseball has ever seen in our 17 year existence.  Let me emphasize this, it was the best coverage the sport has ever seen, not just our city.

When game time starts, my focus is on our players and our competition.  All I wanted to do was get players playing time in these games and put players in a position to succeed.  I have to admit, it was hard to ignore what was going on around our bench. Reporters, cameras, microphones, notepads all swarming around our fields.

Thaxton is Mic’ed up while he plays

Yes, the Globe was there as expected.  What we had unexpected was every major TV station in the area and WBZ radio station came to catch the story.  Our volunteer media team was busy at work connecting players to the media, helping conduct interviews mid game.  Microphones were slotted in behind home plate to pick up the action.  Heck, Christian Thaxton even played with a microphone on his belt for a few innings.  Honestly, we could not have drew this up any better.

As the day came to the last game, the skies would open up with torrential rain.  This did not deter the media.  In fact, Guy Zuccarello was interviewed in the rain by Fox25.  NBC Boston also came back to report live from the fields.

I was so proud of our volunteer staff for pulling this together.  It did not stop here.  Scott Souza who helped start the media frenzy, did a follow up article on the squad after the games.  Again, his article was picked up by some of the wicked local press.  We even ended up on the front page of the Daily times Chronicle in Woburn!

After the World Series was over, we achieved something we had pitched for years.  Only a Game is a radio show on NPR.  We had always thought our story would be a good fit for them.  We changed our pitch to them and they loved the story line.  This sent Christian Thaxton to the studio to tell his story in national radio.

To say we got our story out this year is not doing justice to the accomplishment.  We got more media coverage in 2017 than the entire league did for the year.  We got more media coverage than our team has had in the past 16 years combined!  We achieved our goal of awareness…We are hoping it helps us pay dividends for recruiting and fundraising in the 2018 season.  I’m truly grateful for the two guys who made this happen (Bryan Grillo and a volunteer who wants to remain anonymous).

To see a more complete list of the media we got in 2017 see our media page

#1 Woburn Host Lions amaze everyone

Members of all of the teams take a picture with the Woburn Host Lions after getting their checks

Members of the six teams and Lions pose after the Woburn Host Lions gave out shirts and $1,000 checks

This year, we asked the Woburn Host lions if they would be willing to host our 3rd ever beep baseball tournament in New England history.  The kicker was we wanted to expand to 6 teams which we had never done before.  This meant more fields and more volunteers which normally means an expanded level of commitment.

Bryan Murphy and Frank DiMauro of the Lions did a lot of the early planning with us to make sure things would be good.  BJ Callahan became the point man as we got closer to make sure things went off well on game day.  They also had something cooking, other than burgers and dogs that they planned to unveil to us on game day.

As always, the Lions were in force on our big day.  They lined the fields, cooked the food, umpired the games, cleaned up the park, set up canopies, made sure we had shelter when the weather went south.  They helped get the mayor to come as well as some local woburn press.  They had T shirts made with money raised from numerous sponsors (many of them members of the Lions) for all of the teams and gave them out.  They did it all with a smile on a day that started for many near 7:00 am and lasted near 6:00 with sun and rain.

That was not enough.  They wanted to go big.  At the end of the day, with all the team’s present, they announced each team would walk away with $1,000.  They raised $6,000 to give to all of the teams who attended!  Shock was an expression on most of the player’s faces.  I am fortunate enough to have my vision.  The look on some of the out of town teams when this was announced equaled the look of  someone finding out their lottery ticket won.  The level of generosity of all the guys at the Woburn Host Lions is on another level.

I have been in this sport since 2003.  I have only seen one other city give cash to the teams. We must pay homage to the Bolingbrook Lions who have been running the best beepball tournament for years.  That tournament has been running for about 15 years and every year they give money to the 8 teams that come and play over a two day weekend.  I can honestly say that in two years of hosting a tournament, the Woburn Host Lions have proven they are amongst one of the biggest supporters of Beep baseball in the nation.

The fact woburn raised $6,000 and gave each team $1,000 was powerful.  Many of these teams spent over $2,000 to come to Boston…and they got pretty close to half their trip paid for!  The woburn Host Lions do so much for the community.  We are forever grateful for what they have done for our team and the other teams on the East Coast!

So, we have reached number one.  There was plenty of great moments we have discussed, but in my mind the support and generosity of the Woburn Host Lions stands above everything else.  The Association of Blind Citizens and the Renegades are about opportunity.  The fact we have grown this program into a winning program is a tribute to the hard work of the coaches and players. None of this is possible without support.  I am confident that for the six teams in attendance, this moment will stand out as one of their biggest fundraising moments of the year.  In the end, these funds help our athletes compete and play a sport they love.  A sport that does much more for them than just athletics.  To the guys with the Lions, thank you.  To Murph, Frank and BJ…an EXTRA THANK YOU for all the calls and prep work before the event.

We close the book on 2017…and heck its just in time..as later this week, we get to introduce our three rookies to the Renegade way and get bats in their hands.  We hope 2018 brings as good of memories that 2017 brought!  Thanks for following the countdown!

Cooperstown has come Calling for Christian Thaxton!

Cooperstown has come calling for Christian Thaxton.  Why?  He broke the league record for batting average at the World Series going 26-29 and an .897 batting average in Florida during July of 2017 (see this article for a true breakdown on that accomplishment).  His name is now going to be part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown forever!

Christian Thaxton at the plate

Thaxton awaiting a pitch – this picture was submitted to the Baseball hall of fame. Photo by Lisa Andrews

Baseball was in his blood

Christian has had baseball in his blood for most of his life.  He lived and breathed baseball growing up in Duncan, Oklahoma.  He eventually went on to play Junior College baseball.  Sadly, baseball is where he noticed his sight was deteriorating.  His favorite pitch to hit used to be the inside fastball.  As his sight was declining, he was losing this pitch on the way to home plate.  Eventually, his baseball career would come to an end as he battled through LHON (Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy).

Many hitters who love the fastball often see them self in the dirt if the opposing pitcher wants to establish the inside part of the plate.  Any good hitter must get off the ground, dust themself off and get back in the box.   Christian found himself in the dumps when he was told of his vision loss.  However, he picked himself up quickly and dusted himself off and came to Boston to prepare himself for his new life.  Baseball was not on his mind at this point, for possibly the first time in his life.  Then magic happened.

Thax discovers Beep baseball

At an event at the Carroll Center for the Blind, Christian met two Renegades in Joe Quintanilla and Kara Peters. There he learned of beep baseball and the Association of Blind Citizen’s Boston Renegades.  In less than a few weeks, he was taking his hacks at a try-out off coach, Rob Weissman.  He just loved the feel of making contact again.  He was All-in and he was soon a Boston Renegade.

Christian Thaxton at the plate

Thaxton having some fun as he get’s into the box against the Indy Edge. Photo was submitted to Cooperstown. Photo by Lisa Andrews

Thaxton had some adjustments to make as he joined the team late in the spring part of the 2015 season.  He made a trip with the team to New Jersey where he played in his first ever beep baseball tournament.  He got off to a slow start there going just 3-10.  The talent was there. The desire was there. The work ethic was there.  Adjustments just needed to be made and he needed to learn the game of beep baseball.  Things improved as he went 5-11 a few weeks later at home in Woburn.  Then he busted on to the scene at the World Series and in his first year finished 4th in the league in hitting at the Series with a .719 batting average.

In 2016, Thaxton picked up where he left off and he had a chance to play defense for the first time.  This time he was 19-25 in Beast of the East action helping his team win the title for the 6th year in a row while he played on both sides of the ball.  It got better as his clutch hitting and leadership helped the Renegades get to the championship game in 2016 where he hit .651 at the Series, finishing 4th again in the league.

Christian Thaxton at the plate

Thaxton rips a pitch foul. Photo was submitted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Photo by Lisa Andrews

In the 2016 off season, as we always do on the Renegades, we talked about what the players can do better.  There is nothing we can teach Christian about his swing.  He knows more about swinging then all of the Renegades combined.  We did talk about his mental approach and how to tweak that.  The result?  He went off in 2017.  At one point in the season when things clicked, he scored in 20 consecutive plate appearances including going a perfect 10-10 in front of the hometown fans in Woburn.   At the World Series, he continued to make a name for himself in the league.  He was scorching hot and went 26-29.  Many of these runs came against some of the top defensive teams in the league such as Austin, Colorado, Indy Thunder and the Indy Edge.

It’s official, we had a new record

The league does not have an official database of statistics.  So after a few weeks of the World Series, Coach Rob did some research, made some calls and found out Thaxton had broken a record which had stood since 1996 by John Parker of the Kansas All-stars.  John Parker was kind enough to confirm he had held the record and even sent Christian a gift passing on the baton and a record that stood since Christian was about three years old.

Christian Thaxton at the plate

Christian makes contact on one of his 26 run scoring hits of the 2017 World Series. Photo by Lisa Andrews

Once this was determined, Cooperstown was called and alerted of the feat.  They were very excited to accept Memorabilia from Thaxton and the Renegades to tell the story of this accomplishment.  To prove he had the record, all the scoresheets were collected.  They also wanted his bat and a photo of him using the bat.  Coach, Lisa Andrews scoured through her photos and found a great shot of him with the bat being used during the last game of the World Series (in fact, all of the photos on this page with him hitting were submitted to the Hall).

The Bat has it’s own story

The funny thing about the bat was it was damaged.  We had actually had discussions with Easton about sending it back to them for a review.  This bat was used for less than one season and had bent.  We found the bend in our last game of the year against the Indy Edge.  the bat was warped and the cause was likely a combination of Christians bat speed against the one pound beep ball.  For Safety reasons, the bat was thrown out of the last game.  Easton did not want the bat…but Cooperstown did.

Rob donates a bat used by Christian Thaxton to Shirley Tyler of the National Baseball Hall of Fame to represent his record batting average at the World Series

At the Annual Baseball Hall of Fame Film festival, Coach Rob delivered the bat in person to the hall of fame and gave it to them.  It will forever reside in their archives.  Both Coach Rob and Christian received certificates for donating the bat, scoresheets and photo.  They also received lifetime passes to go to the baseball hall of fame.

An honor for Every Renegade

Not only is this an honor for Christian but there is great pride in this accomplishment from his team.  Pitcher, Ron Cochran and Catcher, Rob Weissman were with Christian for every pitch of the World Series. Ron had to lob in the pitch perfectly each time.  Weissman was responsible for being consistent with his target.  So many of the hitting coaches helped prepare him for the series by helping him take his hacks. Many of his teammates were just so excited for him and this accomplishment.  They were excited to have their names on the scorecards enter Cooperstown.  It goes beyond that though.  Thaxton helps many of the players on the team as he acts as a hitting coach providing feedback and drills for his teammates.  His “students” were proud of their “teacher”.

Certificate from the National Baseball Hall of fame with the lifetime passes for Christian and Coach Rob

A true success story

Thaxton went from a low of being told he would never play baseball again and that he was legally blind.  He picked himself up off the dirt, dusted him self off after being knocked down.  He got up, moved to Boston, started a new life and found the Boston Renegades.  Not only is his bat in the National Baseball Hall of fame, it’s a feat he would likely never have made if he did not have vision loss.  Thaxton is a model for how to handle adversity and concur it.  He is a Hall of Famer in so many ways!

 

Christian Thaxton broke a league record for batting average

In Wellington Florida during the 2017 Beep Baseball World Series, Christian Thaxton  broke a league record for batting average that had stood since 1996.

Christian Thaxton

Christian Thaxton at the plate during his 20 game hitting streak in Woburn, Ma

At the World Series, Thaxton hit an eye opening .897.  His stat line was 26 hits in 29 at bats with 1 strike out over 7 games.  The previous record was held by John Parker of the Wichita Sonics in 1996 when Parker hit .878 at the World Series in Austin, Texas.  Many consider John Parker one of the greatest hitters of the National Beep Baseball Association.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thaxton had many highlights this year for the Renegades that included

  • a 20 at bat streak over three tournaments where he scored in 20 straight at bats
  • He set a team record for his .759 average on the entire season (44-58), shattering the record he set in 2016 when he hit .691 (47-68)
  • Tied a team record (that he set in 2016) for scoring 6 runs in a game against the Austin Blackhawks

Tops in history

Christian Thaxton holds up a T shirt signed by John Parker

John Parker sent Christian Thaxton a shirt with Parker’s record and Christians new record written on it as a way to pass on the record that held for 21 years from one of the all-time greats to one of the leagues current stars

The NBBA has been in existence since the mid 1970’s but the rules have changed over time.  At one time bases were 90 feet and the hitters had 5 strikes to hit the ball.  John Parker’s record in 1996 was with the current set of rules with 100 foot bases and 4 strikes.  The top averages in history with the current rules for a single World Series are as follows

Rank Year Player Team Avg
1 2017 Christian Thaxton Boston Renegades .897
2 1996 John Parker Wichita Sonics .878
3 2001 Benny Meier Oklahoma City Bombers .840
4 1996 Dan Greene Chicago Bluff .837

 

 

About Christian Thaxton

Knowing Christian, this should come as no surprise since he did play junior college baseball before he lost his sight.  In just three seasons, his swing has become almost legendary in beep baseball, as he has made the all star team all three seasons he has played.  Not only is he one of the best hitters in the game, he is invested in being a great teammate.  All year long, he was working with his coaches and teammates to help the team better learn the proper mechanics of a swing.  His attitude makes him more of an MVP than his stats do.  Christian was interviewed by NPR this summer on a show called Only a game.  You can hear that interview here:  

Christian Thaxton pose with his MVP trophy and his catcher, Rob Weissman and pitcher, Ron Cochran

Weissman, Thaxton and Cochran pose with Christian’s MVP award

Though Thaxton is an amazing athlete, the work to get an MVP in beep baseball also heavily relies on his pitcher and catcher.  In beep baseball, the hitter is blindfolded and the pitcher and catcher are in the same team.  They work as a unit to put the ball into play against the opponent. Ron Cochran of Littleton, Mass threw every pitch to Thaxton and finished as one of the top pitchers of the 2017 beep baseball world series.  the Catcher was Head Coach, Rob Weissman of Waltham, Mass.

2017  World Series

Thaxton ran away with the mvp this year as he finished .147 points ahead of the next best hitter in the 2017 World Series.

MVP Christian Thaxton (Boston Renegades) 0.897
2) Brandon Chesser (Austin Blackhawks) .750
3) Lupe Perez (Indy Edge) .733
4) Gerald Dycus (Indy Thunder) .704
5) Eric Rodriguez (Indy Thunder) .692
6) Cory White (Indy Thunder) .667

 

Putting this World Series in perspectve

In Beep baseball, it can be tough to tell who the best hitters are.  The reason for this is the fact the schedules are not equally balanced.  For the most part, nobody would argue with the names that make the list.  They are truly some of the best hitters in the league for sure.  In addition, each World Series produces different numbers that correlate to the speed of the fields.  Faster fields typically produce higher batting averages.   Christian did something that was pretty amazing.  The distance he had to 2nd place was also the largest gap in the history of the sport since the rule change

Rank Year MVP – team Avg 2nd place player/team 2nd place avg Delta
1 2017 Christian Thaxton – Boston .897 Brandon Chesser – Austin .750 .147
2 2003 Eric Mazariegos – West Coast .765 Mike Dell- Cleveland .630 .135
3 2011 Tanner Gers – Bayou City .667 Steve Lyles – Colorado .586 .081
4 2013 Tanner Gers – Bayou City .756 Ching-Kai Chen – Taiwan .676 .080

Boston’s Accomplishments

Thaxton becomes the second player in team history to earn an MVP at the world series.  Guy Zuccarello won a defensive MVP in the 2012 World Series in Ames, Iowa

The Renegades finished the 2017 World Series ranked 5th in the world.  It was the team’s third consecutive top 5 finish and its best performances since the team started competing in 2002.

The World Series is coming and the Renegades are the #2 seed

NBBA logo with 4 country flagsThe World Series is coming and the Renegades are the #2 seed.  This is the highest seed the Renegades have ever had.  This should be no surprise because the NBBA simply seeds teams based on where they finished in the previous year.  For teams not there, they just get seeded at the bottom.  Not the best policy at all….especially for a team like Taiwan who pretty much makes the finals every year they show up.  Financially, it’s hard for them to be there every year.

For the first time in league history, there will be four countries participating.  The United States and Taiwan are long tenured countries.  Canada is being represented for just the 2nd time by the Toronto Blind Jays.  The Dominican Republic is being represented for the first time by the Caribbean Hurricanes.

Here is the seeding and the Renegades record against all of the teams involved

Seed Team Boston’s All Time Record against
1 Indy Thunder 4-11
2 Boston
3 Colorado 5-8
4 Bayou City (TX) 0-5
5 San Antonio (TX) 1-0
6 Austin (TX) 3-4
7 Indy Edge 0-1
8 Chicago 1-11
9 Minnesota 4-0
10 Lone Star 1-0
11 New Jersey Titans 2-0
12 Tyler 7-1
13 BCS 1-0
14 Seattle Never played
15 Rochester 1-0
16 Athens Never played
17 St. Louis 1-0
18 Daytona Never played
19 Long Island 21-11
20 Taiwan 0-2
21 Toronto Never played
22 Caribbean Never played

Boston has become one of the most tenured teams in the sport.  Only a few teams have been to the series as long as Boston including the Indy Thunder, Chicago Comets, Tyler Tigers, Bayou City Heat and Austin Blackhawks.

There are some North East teams here that the Renegades have played a lot.  After the Beast of the East, Long Island finished 2nd.  They are ranked 19th in the league.  This ranking is an example of the league seeding them at the bottom because they did not attend in the previous year.  The North East is represented by Boston, Long Island, The NJ Titans and Rochester.  This represents one of the strongest showings and most teams from the Northeast in league history.

The Games begin on Tuesday, July 25th.  Boston will be fortunate to get a bye in the first round of pool play.  Boston’s first game is scheduled to begin around 11:00.  The two opponents in the Renegades bracket are the Seattle South King Sluggers and the New Jersey Titans.  Here is a quick look at each team

Game #1 Seattle:

The Sluggers return for just their 2nd World Series as beep baseball is starting to take shape in the West region of the country.  Kevin Daniel runs this team and is doing a great job marketing his club.  The Sluggers won one game against 6 losses at the Series last year.  Their first NBBA victory came against the Athens Timberwolves.  From last year’s team they lost their star defender and leading run scorer, Ricky Kim (who moved across the country and now plays for Rochester).  Dino Sanchez and Michael Walker were the only other two players on the current roster who scored more than one run for the Sluggers last year.  They also have two new rookies. in Dylan Pleasants and Travis Pruett.  Seattle is a fledgling team that is looking to improve.

Game #2 New Jersey Titans

The Titans are reeling from the 15-3 loss they took in Woburn just last weekend.  You can be sure they are working to put a better effort together.  They have a very athletic team and can play with the Renegades.  Marvin Morgan is a standout player for this team.  He can hit bombs and has improved his defense as well as he made three stops in the 2nd layer for the Titan against Boston.  Lamont Bordley and Deshaun Widener bring speed to the game while Alfonso Harrell brings another big body to the line up.  The Titans picked up some friends from the Philly Fire and the coach, Wily Natoli and his daughter, Gina will be on board.  They also picked up Andre Foster from the New Jersey Lightning.  John Patterson (Iowa), Justin Tsinnijinnie (AZ) and Wali Salahuddin (NC) round out some of the other pickups they made to help them get through the brutal schedule of the week.

On Wednesday, the double elimination brackets start.  Boston will keep playing till it either loses two games, or reaches the finals which will be played on Saturday afternoon.  Expect the Renegades to play between 6-10 games during the week.  That schedule is going to be a true grind with the high heat, high humidity and projected rain.  In addition to this, the fields are rumored to be cut very short.  This means very high scoring games and the possibility of 3-4 hour games.

You can follow the Renegades all week long on Facebook. If the Renegades can get into the top 4 seeds, the games will be streamed on line.  Follow the Renegades on Facebook for more information on those games.  Make sure to keep Thursday, July 20th through Saturday July 22nd open…as the Renegade will be on a race to the title!

If you are in Florida and plan to come cheer us on : Games will be played at the Village Park Soccer Complex located at 11700 Pierson Road in Wellington, Florida.  Below is a picture of the fields.  The Renegades start their games on Field 5 on Tuesday

Village Park field map

Joe Quintanilla named to the Cambridge Athletic Hall of Fame

On April 29th, Joe Quintanilla was named to the Cambridge Athletic Hall of Fame.  “Q”,  who owns the Renegade record for most games played entered got his start in sports long before he started playing ball in 2000.  Q’s roots as an athlete started long before the Renegades.  He ran 11 different seasons as a member of the cross country and indoor/outdoor track teams before graduating high school in 1994.  Joe Also ran the Boston Marathon, ran as part of Boston College and made the 1996 Paralympics team in Atlanta as a representative of the United States.  Congrats.  You are not an Average Joe!

Thanks to Chris Cavallerano, we have a copy of this video on our youtube channel

 

Attached is a picture of his article in the program that the Hall of Fame published for that night

Joe Quintanilla's Hall of Fame article from the April 29th induction ceremony

 

 

The Renegades have athletes with a story and Inspiration!

The Renegades have athletes with a story and Inspiration!  Watching a beep baseball game you will be amazed at what you can see.  You will see a high level of competitive spirit.  You will see athletes running top speed and swinging for the fences.  You will also see defensive players throwing their bodies on the ground trying to make a key defensive stop.  You will see coaches creating strategy and helping players improve their game.  It is just an impressive sport to watch.  It is inspiring!

Then you look closer and see these athletes are all wearing blindfolds and many of them can’t see at all.  Now the game is even more impressive.  The level of trust they have in each other to fly around at top speed not knowing what is in front of them.  How amazing their hearing must be to track a ball rolling on a huge field or hear a base buzzing in tough windy conditions.  It is inspiring!

It’s impressive and it’s fun to watch.  But there is so much you don’t see that makes the Boston Renegades and so many of the other teams in this league even more impressive.  First, let’s start with coaching.  Most coaches teach by showing someone.  “Watch me and do what I do”. That is often how most sports are coached at the start.  How do you teach someone to hit a ball that has never seen a swing before?  Creativity, verbal communication, the sense of touch all become critical to the success of a coaching staff.  Often times what we see, is not what the players hear.  That perception alone can lead to some interesting coaching moments!

Go a tad further and you begin to realize, the Renegades have been at this since 2002.  It took years to learn how to coach this sport effectively and we are still learning every day.  The coaches of the Renegades have made a huge difference in these players skills.  However, this is not the most impressive thing about the sport either.

The most impressive thing that sets this sport apart from even the highest levels of sport is the stories.  Each and every player in this league has a story.  They do not represent the average blind person.  Not even close.  Many people who lose their sight would have no desire to have a ball hit at them or run full speed into a buzzing base.  Many of them actually lose a desire to even stay in shape.  A beep baseball player has normally overcome so much more than most other athletes.  They have overcome so many obstacles to even play the sport.  They are truly inspirational and many of them would make amazing mentors at how to overcome adversity.

Since 2002, roughly 50 players have tried to play in a game for the Renegades.  Each and everyone of them is unique and has a story to tell.  For brevity, let’s talk about a few of the current Renegades and what they have accomplished on and off the field and what makes them truly an inspirational athlete:

Joe Quintanilla

Joe Q crashes into a base in 2005

On the field – Joe has played in more games (181) than any other Renegade in team history.  He is the only Renegade in team history to play at least one game in every season the team has existed.  With age, he has moved from the lead-off hitter in 2003 to more of a role player in 2016.  However, he has never let a big moment scare him.  He delivered big time in the 2016 world series coming off the bench for his injured teammate and coming up with two giant hits at the end of the game to help us get into extra innings and eventually win.  This 2 run performance sent us to the championship game for the first time in team history.

In 2013, Joe Q sports his uniform from the 1996 Paraolympics

Inspiration– Joe lost his sight as a kid and he never let that stop him.  At that time, he would never play ball like his idol, Jim Rice.  Instead, he took to running.  He became a huge part of his high school running program.  He even ran competitively in college.  He was so good at distance running that he made the paraolympic team as a marathon runner in the Olympic games in Atlanta in 1996.  Joe is always ready to talk distance running.  He has helped his friends prepare for their first marathon and he has helped make blind runners in Boston feel special by being one of the minds behind the Blindfold challenge, a 5K race for people to run or try to run with a blindfold on.  On aril 29th, Joe will be inducted into the Cambridge Athletic Hall of fame for his feats at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School as a member of the Cross country, indoor and outdoor track teams.  For more about Q, see an article on him in the Rochester Post in 2010

Christian Thaxton

 

Thaxton races toward third base in 2015

On the field– Thaxton burst into the scene in 2015 when he joined the Renegades in Mid season.  Though he was injured the day before the world series, he still managed to hit a team record .719 in his rookie year at the world series.  He followed that up hitting .651 in the 2017 series.  Both seasons, he was named to the league all star game for offense.  Many would argue, he is the best pure hitter in the league today after only playing two seasons.  He has home run power and lights out speed.  His teammates sit on the bench quietly when he comes to the plate to watch the “show” and listen to him make the beep ball squeal like a little piggy when he sends it deep into left field.  What makes him even more valuable is his investment in his teammates and he works hard with the coaches and players to teach them how to swing with better mechanics.

Christian (middle) shows off his 2016 all star award with his pitcher, Ron Cochran and catcher, Rob Weissman

Off the field – Christian was born to play baseball.  It’s in his families blood.  He grew up a baseball stud in Oklahoma.  He even played  junior college baseball at Redwoods Community College in 2012.  That is when he found out he had a rare eye disease called Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy.  As you would imagine, hearing the news you would be legally blind would be painful.  Christian went through some very rough times.  In 2015, his healing was on the way and he decided to come to Boston.  His attitude is amazing.  He has not only learned how to live with this disease, but he has done it in a city he was not familiar with, far away from his family and support system who is still in Oklahoma.  Christian is now enrolled at Umass and is working to complete his college degree.  All of this within three years of being told he would go blind.  Truly someone who looks at the positives in life, has faith and does the right thing!

Joe McCormick

 

Joe McCormick showing his excitement after scoring a run

On the field – Joe McCormick busted on to the Renegades scene in 2012 and has become one of the best two way players in team history.  Mac was named to the league offensive all star squad in 2013 when he hit .600 at the World series.  At the time, he was only the second Renegade to ever make an offensive league all star.  In team history, Mac ranks third all-time with 158 runs scored (in just 5 years of play) and 5th in defensive stops (121).  In fact, he is just one of three players in team history to break the century mark in both categories.  He is also only one of three players with a career batting average over .500 as he ranks 2nd all-time with a .541 batting average.

Joe Mac proudly holds the Beast of the East trophy which he has helped win 4 times

Off the field – Joe began to lose his sight in his senior year of high school to Leber’s Hereditary Optical Neuropathy.  Like a hitter taking a called third strike, he quickly accepted it and never slowed down.  Instead, he just figured it out.  He was accepted to and attended Harvard University the following year and he graduated in 2014 with a degree in Computer Science.  Never letting anything slow him down he plans to wed his high school sweetheart in the spring of 2017.  For more info on Mac, check out this amazing article in the Boston Globe from 2014

 

 

Larry Haile

 

Larry Hailes tumbles over a base in Philly, 2017. He was safe!

On the field – Larry joined the team in 2006 and at that time had zero confidence in his ability to play the sport.  He had no idea how to swing a bat but he loved to run.   He did not let that bother him.  He worked and he learned.  We helped simplify his approach and the rest is history.   He is now the all time leader in Renegade history in runs scored with 233 (only player in history that has eclipsed 200) and he is 5th all-time with a career .431 Batting Average

Larry is one of 4 players who have been part of all 6 Beast of the East Championship runs!

Off the field – Larry lost his sight as a kid.  He competed in the Maryland area at track as part of the school for the blind.  But what makes Larry’s story amazing is his mobility.  Larry has a passion for public transportation.  In fact, when the team travels, he often times spends his nights taking a tour of the city in his own.  YES! On his own.  He does not let his lack of vision stop him.  He wears a gps around his neck and off he goes.  Larry has traveled the world by himself to far off places like Japan.  His knowledge of public transportation is so amazing that he helps our new players learn how to ride the train and the bus.  He even can pretty much help anyone quickly figure out how to get from point a to point b using the subway and busses with just his memory.  For more about Larry, check him out on Chronicle in 2012

 

 

Aqil Sajjad

Aqil takes a rip in 2010

On the field – Aqil had never played baseball before.  The closest he had come was playing cricket as a kid in Pakistan.  In a short time, he became a steady presence on the Renegade roster and during the first few years of his career, he led the team in games played and was one of the hardest players to strike out (he ranks as the 6th toughest player to strike out in team history at 19.7%).  Aqil is 100% self made as we have taught him everything he knows including how to run which was difficult since had never run before playing with the team.  While attending Harvard, he had a two bedroom apartment.  One of those rooms was dedicated to his beepball swing which after tens of thousands of practice swings he had crafted one of the most repeatable swings on the team.

Off the field – Aqil has no sight and has not had any since he was a teenager in Pakistan.  That has never stopped him.  In fact, in 2014, he The Renegades have a theoretical Physicist that could be on the big bang theory. Of course his "big bang" was the walk off hit he had against New Jersey last weekend! How can he do physics without his sight? He is WICKED SMAHT!graduated Harvard university with his PHD in theoretical particle physics.  That topic is hard enough for most people but Aqil had to learn how to do all of these equations without the use of sight.  He is currently working at Perkins school for the blind on a project to help blind people do math while he ponders his next scientific achievement.  for more about Aqil, check out a page we created for him with many of his articles

Renegades Announce 2017 Game and Practice Schedule!

It’s that time of year again!  The Boston Renegades start their 16th year of play in the National Beep Ball Association.  We enter the year ranked 2nd in the World after shocking the league finishing the season 13-2 with the only two losses coming to the Champion, Indy Thunder.  In fact, in the past two seasons, the Renegades are 26-4.  It should be an excting season as Boston expects to play its most games since the 2010 season.

June 3:  Lincroft, New Jersey at  Christian Brothers Academy High School located at 850 Newman Springs Road (route 520)

Boston travels to Lincroft for the second time in team history.  In 2015, Boston swept three games there defeating Long Island, the New Jersey Lightning and the PA Wofpack.  Games will begin around 9:00 am and last through roughly 4:30.  There will be six teams in attendance but we will only play three of those teams.  There will be a Random draw in May of who we will play.  Below is a look at how we have fared against the opponents who are in attendance

Team Boston Wins Boston Losses
Long Island 19 11
NJ Lightning 12 2
NJ Titans 1 0
Philly Fire 22 4
Rochester Pioneers 0 0

June 10-11:  Bolingbrok, Illinois at  Bolingbrook Recreation and Aquatic Center located at 200 Lindsey Lane Bolingbrook, IL

Boston Returns to Chicago for the first time since 2013.  Outside of the World Series, this is the biggest event in the league.  Eight teams will be competing over 2 days.  Each team is guaranteed to play four games each.  Three games on Saturday and one game on Sunday. This will be the Renegades 9th trip to Chicago.  The team has not fared well here in the past with a 10-22 record overall.  However, most of these games were played when the Renegades were a newer, inexperienced team.  Will things be different?  We will find out in May who our opponents are. You can be sure these teams will be looking to put a target on our back.  In 2016, Boston walked off twice on Colorado and beat Chicago for the first time in history.   The Indy Thunder also faced us twice in 2016 beating us to win the national championship  Below is a look at our 7 possible opponents and our lifetime record against them with their 2016 National Ranking

Team Boston Wins Boston Losses National Rank out of 20
Austin, Tx 2 4 6th
Chicago Comets 1 10 8th
Cleveland 6 5 Not Ranked
Colorado 5 8 3rd
Indy Edge 0 0 7th
Indy Thunder 4 11 1st
Minnesota 4 0 9th

July 8:  Woburn, Ma at Joyce Middle School located at 55 Locust Street, Woburn

This will be the biggest beep baseball tournament in the history of New England.  Never before has there been 6 teams converged in New England to battle it out for the Beast of the East trophy.  This event will be a continuation of the games played in Lincroft, in early June.  The format is to play the two games against opponents whom we did not play in New Jersey.  This will give every team 5 games.  From there the top seed will face off against the two seed.  Three will play four. Five will play six.  Last year, we had five teams competing but this season, we added the Rochester Pioneers to the mix.  Below shows how these teams fared in Beast of the East competition and the World Series last year.

Team  Wins  Losses National Rank out of 20
Boston 13 2 2nd
Long Island 3 3 Not Ranked
Philly Fire 2 3 Not Ranked
NJ Titans 6 6 13th
NJ Lightning 0 5 Not Ranked
Rochester Pioneers 2 5 19th

The Renegades have been practicing since March and will be back in Watertown, their home since the 2006 season.  For more information on the practice schedule, please see our schedule page.  Also, we will be announcing some local charity games where the Renegades will take on sighted opponents.  Make sure to come out to Woburn this year and see some Beep Ball action!

Top 10 Renegade moments of 2016

As we close the book on 2016 and welcome in a New Year, let’s pause and reflect on the Top 10 Renegades moments of 2016.  Each year this team takes steps at improving and 2016 was no exception.  On and off the field we had a lot of fun and a lot of success.  As we have done in previous years, Let’s review the top 10 moments of the season through the eyes of Coach, Rob Weissman.  We will post one post a day for the next 10-12 days…so please check back to remember some of the top moments of the year.

#10 Soto finds his Rhythm

Boston Renegades -Ben Coiner Lifts Luis Soto in the air in celebration

Ben Coiner Lifts Luis Soto into the air after he scored a pair of runs vs the NJ Titans in Long Island

Often times, the things that are memorable happen off the field.  What is great as a coach of the Boston Renegades is seeing hard work off the field pay dividends on the field. Luis Soto entered the year as a third year player.  With his blindness comes problems with his memory which is all due to how he lost his sight as a kid.  When the season started, we took a team stance of the importance on learning the mechanics of hitting.  We asked all the players to explain to the coaches the key mechanics we were focusing on.  From day one, Soto was frustrated and went into a shell.  He was frustrated he could not recall things and was concerned he would not be able to contribute.  I spent many hours on the phone with him in the spring trying to coach him up and show him that athletically he is quick and has raw power.  We talked about the fact, he was in better shape than many guys on the team.  We talked about the main thing holding him back was his confidence.  Coming into the season, soto was a career .056 hitter with just one run in 18 at-bats.  In our first tournament of the year in long island Soto had a great game against the New Jersey Titans.  In his 2nd trip to the plate he hit a ball into the ground which did not go very far but his speed beat the defense and he scored.  The team erupted.  Later, in the same game, he hit a laser into the deep outfield and cruised into the base for his first career multi run game.  He scored more runs in this game than he did in his whole career!  What was so memorable for me here as a coach was two things.  First, it was amazing to see his confidence turn so quickly in that game and to see a smile return to his face where it had not been all year.  Secondly, Lisa Andrews captured a moment on camera that I loved (see the above picture).  First year coach, Ben Coiner was so pumped for Soto that he lifted him into the air.  I was a proud coach at that moment.  Proud of Soto and super proud of the culture on this team to see a first year coach so excited at that moment.  It was priceless and a top 10 moment of my 2016 season.

 

#9 The Knock out Punch

Mac and Than at the Banquet

Thanh and Mac two days after the collision. Mac has a black eye to show for it

Not every moment we have is memorable for a good reason.  Some of the most painful things tend to stay with us, especially in sports.  That happened in our bracket game against the Indy Thunder.  In this game, we had one of the worst injuries in team history.  We entered this game undefeated on the year.  We were facing off against the only other undefeated team at the World Series.  The winner of this game went to the title game while the loser went to the semi finals.  The score was 6-4 and the Indy Thunder was leading going into the top of the 5th inning.  Gerald Dycus hit a laser into left center field that was most likely going to be a run with his blazing speed.  As the ball sailed past Third Baseman, Than Huynh, he turned his back and chased after it.  Joe McCormick was taking an angle to the ball from his left field spot and before anyone could react, the two collided in a loud bang.  Both players went down.  At first, it looked like these two tough guys would shake it off as it looked like Thanh may have gotten the worst of it since he is literally half the size of Joe McCormick.  There was no blood which was a good sign.  When we got to them, Thanh was a little shell shocked but Joe was dizzy.  As Mike Marciello assessed the situation, we saw Joe’s face begin to swell and swell quickly.  His game was over as Mike pulled him.  Thanh on the other hand remained in the game as he was playing on pure adrenaline.   A short time later, we called for an ambulance and Joe was taken to the hospital.  Thanh was later pulled from the game and was limping very badly the rest of the tournament. Thankfully, these two players would eventually heal and be ok.  In the 15 years of playing ball, this went down as the worst in-game injury, and one of the worst injuries we have seen in team history.  In the end, Joe had fractures in his face and sinus cavities.  Thanh had bone bruises to his leg and foot.  This collision changed the outlook of the World Series and helped the Thunder win this game.  Boston showed its resolve by digging deep and winning the semi final game against Colorado without these two players.  The team truly supported each other.  You can be sure that moment will be discussed and a lesson taken from it as the Renegades look to improve in 2017.

#8 Feeling after the San Antonio Game

Thaxton scored 5 times, Haile 4 times while Rob Dias had 3 runs and 3 stops and Justen Proctor made three stops to lead the Renegades over the Jets

Before the season started, we spoke about the fact it could be a very special year.  The excitement was there from pre season through the entire year. As the World Series brackets were getting created, it became apparent that we could be the recipient of some poor seeding.  Because the league had a lot of turnover, two new teams were formed with many talented veteran players.  These teams were seeded at the bottom of the brackets.  We were supposed to be playing the 19th seed as our first game at the World Series.  A game in which the strategy would have been to rest some of the starters and get some valuable playing time for the rest of the team.  Instead, we got the upstart San Antonio Jets and one of the top pitchers in the history of the sport.  We had two ways to look at this.  We could have complained at how unfair the system was or  shut up and prove to the world what we can do.  We chose the later.  As the league discussed on social media which teams were going to get beat, The consensus claimed the Jets would beat the Renegades.  What happened?  We decided this was a great opportunity.  If we lost, who cares, it had no effect on the rest of the World Series.  If we won, the confidence would help us all week.  What happened, We came out and played well.  We put up huge numbers and won 20-9.  When the game was over, I overheard a few of the Jets players and coaches saying wow, Boston is for real.  Looking around the Renegade team you could see the confidence in the squad.  It was a special feeling and we knew right there, it looked good to set the team up for an amazing run.  Playing a team who we predicted would finish top 5 in the league and beating them set this season up to be the most special in our 15 year team history.  By the way, the Jets did finish in 5th place!

#7 Eight inning win vs Philly Earns 6th Beast of East Title

Team photo of the Renegades in Philly

Team photo of the team we took to Philly which clinched the Beast of the East title

With 5 teams in the Beast of the East for the first time, the format had changed a little bit. We adjusted things so we would only play each team once and the top three teams would play each other a second time.  We entered the day 3-0 and needed to get a win against Philly.  A win here would surely secure another Beast of the East run as it would help us with many tie breakers.  One major hurdle was they recruited one of the game’s best pitchers, Johnny Walker from Colorado.  Walker has owned the Renegades through history including a walk off win in the 2015 World Series with the Colorado Storm.  To make things worse, the fields were lightning fast.  Almost like a putting green, we knew that putting a ball into play would result in a run the majority of the time.  On the bump for the Renegades was Jamie Dickerson in only his 2nd year as a pitcher.  The game started slow as both teams went scoreless.  The runs would soon come  After three innings, Boston held a 5-3 lead but in the 4th, Philly tied it at six.  Boston pulled ahead in the 5th 9-7 but could not hold the lead as Philly scored in the bottom of the 6th to tie the game and force extra innings.  Both teams scored a pair in the 7th but in the 8th inning Dickerson connected with Christian Thaxton, Rob Dias and Shawn Devenish and the defense held in the bottom of the inning as Boston held on to win 17-15.  It would be 1st of 3 times the Renegades would come back and beat a Johnny Walker team in the 2016 season.  The team was fired up.  This team did all of this while Joe McCormick went through an epc struggle with 6 strike outs in 7 trips to the plate.  He was left in the game because of his power potential and the fact he led both teams in defensive stops with 5.  This win gave the Renegade squad confidence it could play in a tight game, it could win with conributions from players up and down the line-up and it was a huge step for Jamie Dickerson as a pitcher.  We were on his back this weekend as he grows in this league.  For the first time since 2006, we went on a trip relying soley on a 2nd year pitcher.  He delivered big time.

#6 Lucas Lectures the team About Hard Work

Lucas joined the squad in 2015 and in 2016 his voice was a part of our success

Before every practice, the team huddles to discuss a few things.  Before one of our practices we had a discussion about walking the talk.  The team had been talking a lot about winning  world title.  There was a buzz from the start of the season.  I had challenged the players early in the season to see if they were truly working toward that goal.  At this point, the message was i felt they could do way more.  We went around taking turns talking about what players were doing off the field.  There was not enough work going on.  At some point during the talk, 2nd year coach Lucas Schwallie had something to say.  This 17 year old had earned the respect of many of the players with his work in the cages with them.  After being mostly quiet in his rookie campaign, Lucas felt more comfortable this year.  He had the floor and firmly said “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work”.  He then told us this was from Kevin Durant.  As a coach, I was totally fired up hearing this.  Here was a High school junior telling these guys to work harder and most importantly, they listened.  I was just loving the culture of this team.  Though Lucas did not travel with the team, he was one of the unsung heroes of the season.  He was a steady presence at practice and was our primary hitting instructor for most of the year because of his ability to be at Wednesday practices.  He watched videos, he analyzed swings and gave feedback.  But this moment stood out to me.  Not only did I love the moment, I recognized how special Lucas is and that he will go anywhere he wants to in this world as he gets ready to go to College in the fall of 2017.  We are lucky he found us one day in the streets of Boston when he asked one of our players how a blind guy with a cane was holding a bat.  Just a tremendous, accountable outgoing young man!

#5 – Put it Behind You Rook, We Need You

Shawn Devenish scoring a run in Philly by hand tagging a base. this burned him in our game against Colorado..and he learned from it

It’s the 12th game of the season.  Boston has 11 wins vs zero losses and facing the Colorado Storm.  The same team that knocked the Renegades into the losers bracket in 2015.  The team that wins this game is guaranteed a top 3 finish in the World Series and will be one of just 2 teams still alive without a loss in the winners bracket.  Colorado had just scored 2 runs to take a 6-5 lead heading into the bottom of the 4th inning to retake the lead in a dog fight.   Joe McCormick led off the bottom of the 4th to tie the game.  With one out, Shawn Devenish came to the plate representing the go-ahead run.  On the 3rd pitch, he grounded a ball up the middle deep into left center field and raced to third base.  It looked like a sure run.  But in beepball, nothing is certain.  Devenish raced to the base and threw his right arm out to tag it…and he missed.  As panic struck, he put the brakes on, stumbled and tried to reverse direction.  Colorado’s Rocky Zamora had the ball in the air and Shawn Devenish was out.  He was now 0-3 in this game.   Things felt worse when Guy Zuccarello struck out to end the inning and the game was now 6-6 and we failed to turn over the line up to our top hitter, Christian Thaxton.  Shawn was visibly very upset at his misfortune.  As the team took the field, I took the opportunity to make sure he was looking at things differently.  I calmly approached him (historically, not my strength), put my arm around him and we talked.  We talked about the play.  We talked about how he needed to be more aggressive at hitting the base dead on when it was harder to hear.  We talked about the wrist injury he  suffered earlier in the year which he hurt going over third base in Long Island.  We talked about mental toughness and focusing on the moment.  We then talked about how important he was to the team.  We talked about the fact his presence in the lineup was a big reason we were 11-0.  We talked about the most important play in the game being the next one.  Shawn’s body language changed.  It was a good talk, possibly one of my best ever.  With anticipation, he came to the plate in the 5th inning  and struck out on 4 pitches.  It did not phase him.  I was excited to see that.  We entered the bottom of the 6th inning down 13-9 and staring at the losers bracket.  but the Renegades don’t ever quit.  With one out, Rob Dias, Joe McCormick and Larry Haile plated runs to make it 13-12.  Shawn Devenish came to the plate representing the tying run.  With three strikes, he hit a laser into right center.  As he ran to the base, I watched closely.  He ran with confidence.  This time there would be no hand tag.  He tackled the base.  Game Tied!  He went from feeling like crap to pure joy.  His smile was as big as they get.  The team was fired up and screaming for joy.  Colorado was slumped over in the field and their body language showed that momentum had shifted.  This game was not over.  More importantly, Shawn showed everyone just how coachable he was and that he is a ball player who is able to learn from his mistakes and make his game better.

#4 The student finally beat the Teacher

JT Herzon of the Chicago Comets has been a mentor to Rob Weissman and The Renegades for years

The biggest influence on our Renegade coaching style from outside our organization has been JT Herzog of the Chicago Comets.  When I first started coaching in 2003, JT told me he would be willing to share some ideas with me.  He spent a few hours on the phone with me that off season and in-season after this.  He was always willing to share his ideas on drills, coaching, game management and ways to make the league better.  I soaked up everything he said.  Not only did I know he was a great coach, but he had won a World title in 2003 and he had built the largest program in the country.  Chicago was a model to try and achieve.  Every year, JT would always have kind words for the improvement we had made and encouragement for the players that things were moving in the right direction.  Though the team was having success, it had never beaten Chicago.  Most everyone who follows the Renegades is aware the Long Island Bombers used to own us.  They had a 7 game winning streak before we ever beat them.  What most don’t know is two teams have done more damage to us.  The Kansas All-stars and the Chicago Comets.  The Comets had beaten us 10 straight times including three times in 2013.

As we entered our game against them on Thursday morning, I felt good this game could be different.  We were clicking and confident.  This was our 11th game of the year and we were 10-0 on the season.  For the first time, I looked at their bench and they looked thin.  The days of them having 20 players were over.  The Comets won the coin toss which made me a little nervous and reminded me of a 2009 game which we lost to them in extra innings.  The game started as a dog fight.  The first two innings saw one of their best players go down with a hand injury, another one of their players almost run into our bench and a long friendly debate on how that play should have been called.  After two innings despite this drama, Chicago clung to a 5-4 lead.  Our bats woke up. Boston scored 7 runs in the 3rd and 4th and after 4 innings Boston was ahead 11-6 and the general feeling was this was going to be our game.   Then we struggled in the 5th as Thaxton struck out for the first time all game. Cochran struggled over the final two innings and we scored just once against 4 strike outs. To make things worse, Chicago is well coached and showed no quit.  They battled back.  With just one out in the 6th inning they had pulled the game to a one run deficit.   Mike “Hoodlum” McGlashon would have the first chance to tie it.  I was calmly pacing the sidelines and talking to the defense.  I spoke to them calmly and tried to keep them focused.  He grounded out to Justen Proctor.  That brought up Juan Gonzalez who had scored three times in this contest and was killing us.  I’m not going to lie.  I had a hard time watching him hit….but when contact was made..I knew it was not solid.  Rob Dias raced to make the stop and we held on to win.  The celebration on the field was like we won the Series.  It would be a huge victory this week..and this confidence would carry over in our other games.  I will never forget Guy Zuccarello telling me after this game…that he was shocked that I actually helped keep the team calm during the Comet’s comeback.  Though JT is no longer the head coach on the squad, his influence is still heavily soaked in on that team.  He approached me with a smile and a big congratulations.  We had finally beaten them.  I had finally beaten my mentor.  It only took us 14 years to make it happen!

 

Rob Dias at the plate

Rob Dias takes a hack during the early rounds of the Series. His biggest hit would come against Colorado and in just three seasons he is tied for the all-time lead in walk-off hits with 2

#3  Dias Gets His 2nd Career Walk-Off

Our first match against Colorado is going to make the top 10 list again.  This time, I need to focus on another moment.  In the 5th top moment of the 2016 season, I spoke of the talk with Shawn Devenish.  We spoke about how big it was to see him tie the game.  As the game went extra innings, we took the field for the 7th inning.  The beepball gods must have smiled on us at that moment.  Chad Sumner led off the inning with a strike out.  Then Richie Krussel who had scored 4 times in the contest also struck out.  This marked their 8th whiff of the game.  More amazingly, five of those 8 whiffs came in the last two innings.  Colorado was struggling.  Demtrious Morrow would end the inning with a ball hit up the gut of the defense.  As he lugged his pulled hamstring to the base, Guy Zuccarello made the stop.  The Renegades floated back to the bench they were so high.

Christian Thaxton had an up and down game. He had scored three huge runs but came up empty in the 5th and 6th as he was trying too hard.  Rob Dias started the game 0-4 but had scored to start the 6th inning rally.  He was so pumped to lead off this inning that he told me he was going to end this game.  One pitch and he launched it by everyone into left field.  If he could have seen that hit, he may have done some sort of bat flip and walked to the base.  This is beepball..and as we saw with Shawn, running the base can be hard at times.  Dias sped to first and hit it with ease.  Walk off!  We were off to play Indy.  We were just one of two teams still alive and undefeated.  The sense of accomplishment was amazing.  Sadly we did not have a ton of time to revel in the victory as Indy awaited us.  Seeing Rob’s confidence and watching him hit that blast was awesome.  The team mobbed him at first base.  It was just a magical day.  First holding off the Comets (that moment was #4 on my list…and Rob made the final clinching defensive stop in that match) and now he comes back with the big hit.  In just 3 years of play Rob has 2 walk-off hits (no-one in team history has more).  Dias will go down as one of the biggest clutch hitters in Renegade history.   It’s just too bad it took an encounter with Bryan Grillo in a department store before he came down.  So many lost years he could have been racking up stats and helping this ball club grow.

#2 We Made the Show and We Did It Our Way

Renegades pre-game for the National Anthem

The Renegades lined up on the 1st Base line before the title game

The night before the Championship game I took some time to reflect.  I did a lot of thinking about how we could win the title game.  But I also got caught up in thoughts about how happy I was to have made the final game.  I thought about all the hard work every past Renegade coach and player had put in.  I thought about how happy they would be for us and themselves to be involved in what we have built.  I truly felt torn about calling everyone to let them know we made it and doing what it takes to prepare to make sure the guys were ready for the big game.  Clearly, I picked the later, but I was equally as excited to make sure every person who had ever supported us or played for us knew we had achieved a goal.  For many of us, this was a goal we had never truly thought about.  Every season, I was quoted as saying, we are not going to the world series with the goal of winning a title.  Most of the league knew this when we booked flights to leave during the title game.  A few times, I even said, I would personally pay for the flights if we ever had to actually play in that title game.  It was not meant as disrespect to the league, it was a way to save the team thousands of dollars.  The first few years of this message, it was often greeted with anger from a few players whose heads were in the clouds about the true reality of how stacked things are against a home grown team.  2016 was the first year in 14 seasons, I told the team, we would take a true shot at the title if people worked hard.

Our team is unique in this league.  We do a lot of stuff differently.  We do a lot of stuff our own way.  Part of it is the culture we have built, part of it is the style we bring to our team as coaches.  At times in recent years, I had always wondered, would we ever get a shot at the big game and what would that feel like.  For me personally, getting there was confirmation that what we have built….though different is very effective.  A we stood in front of the crowd for this game, when they announced our team…I took great pride in what we had built.  My only regret at the time was we just didn’t have enough time to celebrate the success.  Since there is no history book on beep baseball, the game’s stats can be hard to come by.  I know for a fact since 2003 the Renegades were the first team to play in a title game where EVERY player and coach on the roster played 100% of their career in our uniform.  That should be a goal of more teams.  That is the definition of a team.  Though we lost the game, we got there as a team and I believe we did something that may not have happened since the 1970’s.  A rare feat…for a rare team that I was so proud of that week.  This day was validation that the hard work of every coach and player to ever wear the Renegade colors helped us grow to the team we have become today.  It was a very proud moment to be a Renegade.

#1 The Amazing Comeback

The team erupts after Christian Thaxton’s walk-off hit sends us to the title game. Coach, Jamie Dickerson is fired up!

We are playing on the championship field in the semi-finals against Colorado.  Joe McCormick is in the hospital with coach Mike Marciello and Thanh has been relegated to the bench by Mike and Yuki.  We are in the top of the 6th inning and I’m sitting on the bench with Ron looking at the situation. we are down 8-6 and they have their 6-1-2 hitters up.  If we can hold them, we still have a lot of work to do.  We have our 4-5-6 hitters coming up in the last inning and they are a combined  1-9 with 5 strike outs (though one of them was on me due to a gigantic mistake in the first inning).  Somehow we needed to shut them down…and then score just one run from the bottom of our line up to turn the line up over for Christian Thaxton.  Justen made the first defensive out, Guy made the next defensive out and then one of the best two way players, Ethan Johnston who had scored 4 straight times in this game miraculously struck out.  We were still breathing.  Larry Haile represented our best chance for a run and he went down swinging.  We had decided that we were going to hit for Joe Yee who had gone 0-3 with three strike outs.  Joe Quintanilla was the choice.  We just felt he was not going to let the moment get to him and had hopes he could get a knock to right field.  With three strikes on him he tagged a line drive up the middle and scored.  It was the only run he had scored all week.  We were pumped.  And we achieved our goal of making sure the line-up turned over, After Guy was put out on a close play, our lead-off hitter, Christian Thaxton then gave everyone more drama.  On the 6th pitch he saw, he hit a line drive and tied the game.  Our season was still alive.

In the 7th as Ron and I sat on the bench celebrating Quintanilla’s hit we again assessed the situation.  Due up for us was our 3-4-5 hitters.  We knew it would get hard if Colorado scored.  While they batted, I was looking at video and I saw why we had been struggling with Larry.  I showed Ron and we decided to try something different when we pitched to him.  Colorado plated 2 runs.  We now needed 3 runs to win in a game where we had only scored 8 runs in 6 innings.  With one out, Larry came to the plate.  The adjustment was on.  On the first pitch, he hit a pop fly to left and scored.  I was pumped that the analysis we did worked.  It gave us life!  That brought one of the heroes of the 6th inning up.  If either he or Guy could score we could get it back to Thaxton.  Again with three strikes, Quintanilla then hit a grounder up the first base line.  I watched him get out of the box with a horrific line.  He was running in fair territory.  I was just waiting for the umpire to yell “stop”….but then something amazing happened.  The first baseman ran into foul ground looking for the ball.  Q ran by him in fair territory.  The umps said nothing, there was no collision other than Q hitting the base and tying the game.  Holy crap, he tied the game on what sure looked like a play that would be called dead!  Q had scored twice in two at bats.  He had only scored three runs in the entire season before this game!  Thaxton would get his chance to be the hero with two outs and on the 5th pitch he hit a weak pop fly to the right side and jetted down the 3rd baseline and was SAFE!  We came back…again!  We made the title game!  We did it with Joe McCormick in the hospital and Thanh sidelined.  Mac was in our hearts and for the last few innings of that game we changed every player’s calling card to “Joe Mac” …”Way back”. As a way to honor our fallen teammate…and in hopes he was listening to the game on facebook. The fun thing was that no matter how little sight a player had…they all found their way to Thaxton at thirdbase and celebrated.  It was the biggest win in team history.  It was a thrill, it was a surprise, it was a total team effort and  it was an honor.  To see the moment right after Thaxton scored, Sara Cochran caught it on a facebook video here:

Thank you for taking time to read these posts and relive some of these moments with us.  These are the things that drive the passion.  These are the moments we work for.  These are the things that keep our volunteers and players coming back for more each year.  These are things that make us an Exciting team to be a part of!  To relive some of the top 10 moments of the past you can see them here dating back to the 2013 season when we started this tradition:

Smartest Player in the NBBA has to be Aqil Sajjad

Picture of Aqil Sajjad in the field with text from the show Big Bang Theory

Who is the Smartest player in the NBBA?  Well, there is no official way to measure this but Aqil Sajjad would likely be at the top of any list.  Afterall, how many NBBA players (let alone how many people) have a PHD from Harvard in Theoretical Particle Physics.  Aqil graduated from Harvard in 2014 and what he has accomplished without his sight is amazing and inspirational for many.  He has been the subject of many articles and recently was part of a podcast.  Keep in mind that Aqil has no usable sight and relies on technology and his big brain to help him with all of the equations.

Aqil On The Field

Aqil Sajjad played with the Renegades from 2009-2015.  He took the 2016 season off to get married and prepare for the next chapter in his life, but has hopes of being able to return to the team in 2017.  In his time on the field, he has been one of the most dedicated players. Through the 2016 season, he ranks 10th all-time in games played with 87.  He also owns a lifetime .282 batting average and has made 39 stops on defense.  He ranks 5th in team history in putting the ball into play at 81.3%.  Beyond the stats, we will always remember him falling asleep on a short van ride back to a hotel and then falling out of the van when the door opened.  Aqil – he is for Real!

Here are some links to get to know the Aqil Sajjad, the smartest guy in the league

2016 NBBA All Rookie Teams

Story by Rob Weissman

One critcal part of beep baseball is the development of rookies.  We want to encourage as many new players as we can to play this game. Opportunity must be made available for them to play.  The league is very proud of its growth over the years, as it should be.  Moving the World Series around the country has helped spring up multiple teams in Georgia (Atlanta Eclipse, Athens Timberwolves, Columbus Midnight Stars).  Iowa brought us the Reapers.  Rochester, NY gave us the Pioneers.  These teams have added so much depth and helped fill out the league.  Most of these teams are filled with players who had never played the game before.  The world series brought awareness to their cities and opportunity for their visually impaired population.

The opportunity we still have as a league is growing the existing programs.  Rosters seem to change a lot.  Heck, even new teams will pop up. The things is these new teams are rarely filled with new players.  Often times, they are the same players just playing in a different jersey.  A perfect example of this is the Indy Edge which the league considers a new team.  No disrespect to the Edge, but they listed 16 players on their roster.  Two of those players came from the New Jersey Lightning.  Only one player on the roster had never appeared in an NBBA World Series, Chris Dunleavy. Is this is really a new team and is the league truly growing?

It would be great if we can track how many new players are joining each year (Steve Guerra is starting to track this…applauds to him for sure).  That metric would be telling.  How many of them are on new teams (The entire Seattle roster were rookies this year). Vs how many are on existing teams.  to grow our great sport, we need to do more in our local communities to get players involved.  This should be the goal over trying to win a ring.  A goal to win a ring by filling your roster with players that grew up in your system.

The 2016 Championship game between the Renegades and the Indy Thunder may have not been the best game ever.  Heck, Boston got 12 runned. But it was a symbol.  A symbol that a team can win without free agents.  A team can win by growing their roster.  Yes, Boston and Indy got there taking different routes.  The Thunder’s players have played on many teams including Chicago, Kansas and even other Indy teams.  It is believed that everyone on that roster comes from Indy.  Look at the Renegades.  Every player on that roster has played 100% of their games in a Renegade uniform and has grown up in the Boston system.  Each team on that field despite the slight differences mentioned above got there for one main reason.  Rookies!

As we have done in past years, we have spent this space looking at who the top rookies are.  This is not official.  There is no real award given out and our definition of a rookie is soley based on one person’s knowledge of the league.  Since we only have world series stats to look at, a rookie is merely defined as someone who Rob Weissman does not think has ever played in a World Series in previous years.  This may have a level of error in it.

As the league does, we will use the same metrics to name the all star teams.  Offense will use batting average and defense will use stops per game (a metric that is horrific in so many ways …but worse for rookies).   why is the defensive metric bad for rookies?  Its very hard to teach a rookie defense and even harder to put them up front in the defense where all the stops are made.  These defensive stats will only tell part of the story.  Each player on this list should be applauded.  Equally important, the teams who recruited them and coached them should take pride as well.
Let’s start with the defensive all stars this year.  It was hard to find players who put up big numbers here.  Again, many rookies take time before earning the trust of their team to go up front on the point to lead the defense.

All Rookie Defense Team

Defensivley all we can use to rank the players is defensive stops…and compare their stops to how many their team made.  There is a theme here in that all of these players played on teams in the 2nd half of the league.  Atlanta finished 10th and had player make the list.  This is no knock on any player, it makes a point that its very hard for a top tier team to break a rookie into the defense.  Defense takes time to learn.

Name Team Team finish Games played Stops Avg
Jesus Baeza BCS 16th 9 38 4.2
Ricky Kim Seattle 18th 7 19 2.7
Carnell Walker Atlanta 10th 8 18 2.3
Bryan Duarte Arizona 15th 9 8 .89
Brian Harrington Rochester 19th 7 5 .71
John Margist Southwest 11th 10 6 .60

Kudos to all of these players.  A special kudos to the first three players on this list because its so hard to make a lot of stops on defense as a rookie.  Defense is the hardest thing to learn

  • Baeza was the only player we played against on this list.  Jesus was responsible for 51% of the BCS Outlaws defensive stops.  Baeza made 4 stops against the Renegades which became common ground for him.  He made 4 or more stops in 6 of the 9 games he played in.  His best game was a 9 stop effort against the Bayou City Heat.  Baeza led BCS in stops in every game they played during the week.  He and Crystal Stark (from last years defensive all star rookie team) counted for 73% of the stops for BCS
  • Ricky Kim is on a team full of Rookies as this was Seattle’s first World Series ever.  Kim has played for Seattle for three years prior to this, but they had never played in an official NBBA event before against experienced teams.  Kim stopped 59% of the balls for the Seattle defense.  He made 4 stops in four of the seven games Seattle played in.  He led the team in stops in 5 of the 6 games Seattle played (they played one game in which the team never made a put out against Atlanta)
  • Carnell Walker was an exciting young prospect for the up and coming Atlanta Eclipse. Walker was 2nd on the Eclipse with 18 stops behind the vacuum of Isaiah Wilcox (who led the league with 53 stops).  Walker’s best game was against the BCS outlaws when he made 6 stops.  He also had a 3 stop game against Tyler.  Walker was one of the best two way rookies in the league as he also scored 11 times and hit .344 just missing that list on offense.
  • Bryan Duarte was aa Arizona Phenom and finished 2nd on the Phenoms with 8 stops.  His best effort was a three stop game against the Southwest Slammers in the first game of the World Series.  He had 4 games without a stop as well which goes to show you how hard it is to get rookies playing time on defense
  • Brian Harrington is 5th on this list with just 5 stops.  He was third on the Rochester Pioneer team in stops.  His best game was a 2 stop performance against the BCS Outlaws
  • John Margist makes the list with a mere 6 stops…though he led all rookies in games played with 10.  Margist did not show much defense all week until the 10th game.  In that last game he had three stops (50% of his total for the week) against the Lonestar Roadrunners.

All Rookie Offense Team

Offensively, we can look at batting average and strike outs to get a feel of how well the rooks are doing

Name Team Team Finish Runs At bats Strike outs Average
Gerald Dycus Indy 1st 23 34 3 .676
Zach Buhler Indy 1st 19 31 4 .613
John Margist Southwest 11th 22 45 13 .489
Ricky Ruzica San Antonio 5th 17 36 6 .472
Eddie Culp Iowa 17th 10 24 9 .417
Todd Paulson Minnesota 9th 9 24 9 .375
Shawn Devenish BOSTON 2nd 12 34 8 .353
  • Gerald Dycus was not only the class of the Rookies, he was one of the top hitters in the league.  Dycus finished with the third best batting average in the league during the week.  Only five players in the league scored more times than Dycus on the series.  This rookie has speed and power to all fields.  He is dangerous .  He scored a hat trick in 7 of the 8 games he played.  He will be a force in this league for years to come.  As a rookie he only struck out 9% of the time.  We played against Dycus twice and he went 6-11 against the Renegades and did not strike out.
  • Zach Buhler is the second player on this list and the second rookie from the Indy Thunder.  Its not hard to see how they won the title with these two rooks.  Buhler hit a mere .613 which was good enough for 6th in the league and only 2nd behind his teammate amongst all rookies.  Buhler is incredibly fast and has power to boot.  He is another tough out.  Buhler also had a hat trick in 5 of the 7 games he played in.  Buhler played against the Renegades and was 6-10 with just one whiff.
  • John Margist is this years Hideki Matsui.  We know he is no rookie to Beepball as he plays for the Philly Fire.  But we have to be fair and put him on this list because we believe this was his first World Series.  John had a big tournament t0 put him on the map in Chicago this year.  But The Renegades knew he could hit before that.  Only 3 players in the league had more At-bats than John.  He either led or tied the Slammers in most runs scored in a game for them in 7 of the 10 games they played. He scored three runs in a game 5 times during the week.  His strike out rate is high (29%) but keep in mind he lives in Philly and did not work with this team much during the year.  Margist was 3-4 against the Renegades with just 1 strike out.  He was responsible for 3 of the 4 runs the Slammers scored on the Renegades.
  • Ricky Ruzika should be no surprise to this list based on the fact he is young and played baseball. Ruzika has a sweet swing and some power.  He had his best game against the Austin Blackhawks when he scored four runs in a game (an unofficially may have been one of two rookies to accomplish that feat this season).  He also had a trifecta against Lonestar. Ricky played his first World Series game against the Renegades and was 2-5 with 2 strike outs.  It was the only game he struck out twice in all week.
  • Eddie Culp was a surprise to this list for sure.  Iowa was putting up some runs for the first time ever this season.  Culp was a big part of that.  Eddie represented 25% of the Reaper offense with his 10 runs as he was second on the Reapers in runs scored.  He scored a pair against Bayou City, Southwest, NJ Titans and the Rochester Pioneers.  Though we did not see him play, his stats show he was a huge help to the Reaper offense.
  • Todd Paulson scored his first career run against the Renegades and it was a nice moment for him that we enjoyed.   Paulson did not see a lot of playing time early but as his big bat got hot, he earned more playing time.  He was just 1-4 on the first day of the Series in three games.  He then had a 4 run game against Seattle(we believe he and Ruzika were the only rookie to do this in the series).  Paulson may not be the fleetest of foot but he has some good pop in his bat.
  • Yes.  Thats 6 players…..BUT, this is a Renegade web site and we are going to play homage to the 7th best batting average in the league because its our award and this rookie helped us get into the Title game.  That made three rookies in the title game!
    • Shawn Devenish.  Shawn got off to a shaky start with the Renegades this year as he sprained his wrist in the 2nd game of his career.  All year, he was bothered by a bum wrist.  When he squared up the ball…he could hit it as far if not further than any rookie on this list.  Shawn’s 12 runs were 5th most amongst all rookies in the league and he did this playing against the hardest schedule in the league (thats an article for another time).  Devenish had multi run games against San Antonio, Minnesota, Chicago and the Indy Thunder.  Those are some of the top teams in the league.  He also scored the game tying run against the Colorado Storm in the 6th inning that forced the game to go into extra innings.  Putting a rookie in that spot after he was 0-4 with a missed base was an amazing way for his him to show his mental toughness.  He deserved to be on this list…especially since we played against 5 of the 6 guys on the list and he deserves to be mentioned amongst the best rookie hitters in the league!

Shaen Devenish hitting a base is Boston's rep on the NBBA Rookie teamAfter having a Renegade Rookie lead the league in hitting the past two years (Rob Dias and Christian Thaxton), We added Shawn Devenish to the mix this year.  Though he did not lead the league, he did make a major contribution and scored the 5th most runs of any rookie at the series.  Shawn found the Renegades when he was just looking for some sports to play for the blind.  He found our web site on Google.  Shawn came out and played in a charity game with the team in September of 2015 and was super excited.  He was sold even though he was not 100% sure where he would live.  He was going to have a long commute wherever he was.  We were unsure if that commute would be a barrier to him playing.  Shawn filled out the CAF grant and we knew he was serious.  He then made the trek to almost every practice despite being nearly a 2 hour round trip ride.

Coach Weissman knew pretty quickly that we had a special player because Shawn was very coachable from the start.  His knowledge of hitting even passed some of the veterans when the players were quizzed about their mechanics as he aced his “test”.  Devenish worked hard, had fun and was a great teammate from the start even though he bolted right after each practice.  His first game, he was the lead off hitter and the rover in the defense against the New Jersey Lightning and he scored in his 2nd at-bat of the game to the delight of his teammates.  In his second game he scored again against the Long Island Bombers but also hurt his wrist going over third base.  He tried to play through it and every swing he had left him with a grimace on his face.  The medical team pulled him out and he was done playing at that time.  We determined Shawn needed to rest his wrist and we shut him down for a short time.  Every practice, we taped him up and we held our breathe to see how he would do in Philly.

He told the team he felt fine, but we taped him anyway and he again played in the first two games of the Philly tournament.  We moved him up in the line up and in his 3rd game, the first game of the Philly tourney.  The result, he scored three runs (which were critical since the game went 8 innings).  He followed that up scoring one more run against Long Island before it was decided his wrist had enough and we shut him down again.  He was sore after playing.  We had just over two weeks to get him ready for the World Series.

2LA_0518

Coach. Dr. Mike Marciello was one of the medical staff to keep Shawn on the field. He is shown here wrapping Shawn up before a game. Yuki, Peg and Lisa all helped him stay on the field with tape and exercises through the summer

Thankfully, we have an amazing medical team and they were able to help him strengthen the wrist and wrapped him every practice.  Shawn had no limits on him at the World Series though we kept a watchful eye on him.  We know he was never at 100% the whole season.  We found out that he loves to play and is willing to play through pain.  Shawn was a critical part of our success this season and was surely one of the most impressive offensive rookies in the game in 2016.

Introducing rookies to the game is one of the most exciting parts of being a coach.  Each year some of the most memorable moments for the Renegade coaching staff involves watching a new player succeed at the game.  We celebrate their first runs and first defensive outs.  Developing new talent is hard.  Its not only hard to teach them, its even harder to recruit players because the blind community is a small population.

Rookies are imperative to the long term success of the team.  When we looked at the roster the Renegades brought to the World Series.  39% of the roster joined the Renegades in the past three seasons.  The Renegades are one of the few teams that have this dynamic.  Not only has it helped improve our culture and our game, its has helped so many people learn and enjoy the game which leads to more opportunity for the blind community to play ball!

To see the previous NBBA All Rookie team rosters click the links below